CRIM 220: Research methods in Criminology

This guide is intended to help you conduct research for your assignments for CRIM 220.

Popular vs. scholarly information resources

For this assignment, you've been asked to locate scholarly journal articles on your topic of choice. For detailed information on how to distinguish between academic and popular information resources, see the library's online guide to What is a scholarly journal?

Search planning tips

Before you start searching the Library catalogue and other databases, it helps to clearly define your topic. When choosing a topic, try to make sure that it is neither too broad (for example: Young offenders in Canada) nor too narrow (for example: Young offenders tried in adult court for homicide crimes committed in Surrey). 

Once you have defined your topic, try writing it out as a QUESTION; for example: Should young offenders who commit violent crimes in Canada be tried in adult court?

Then, identify your KEY CONCEPTS; for example: Young offenders and adult court and Canada and violent crimes

Next, make a list of RELATED TERMS for each concept that you can also try searching with to increase your results; for example: Young offenders or juvenile delinquents or youth or teenagers

When searching the library catalogue or article indexes, try using a TRUNCATION symbol to find all variations of a term. The * symbol is used as the truncation symbol in most catalogue and database searches; for example: canad* to find articles with the keywords Canada, Canadian, Canadians, etc.

BOOLEAN OPERATORS allow you to combine terms to narrow or broaden your database searches.

AND requires ALL terms to be found in search results (use to narrow or focus your search results)
Example: Young offenders AND adult courts AND Canad*

       OR requires ANY terms to be found in search results (use to expand your search results)
       Example: Young offenders OR juvenile delinquents OR teenagers OR youth
       OR will bring more results; for instance, in the above search, any article with just the word youth in it will appear in your search results.
Modify your search terms as you search the databases and become aware of new terms to describe your topic. Look at the subject headings or descriptors used; for example, the SFU Library Catalogue sometimes uses the term Youth but other books can be found under the subject heading Young Adults.

For further search tips, see the library's How to Find Journal Articles guide, or view our list of online tutorials and drop-in classes.

Criminology and other subject-based information resources

The online, subject-based Research Guides maintained by the SFU Liaison Librarians are good starting places for research on a variety of topics.

The general Criminology Information Resources guide, for example, compiles and annotates a number of key background information, journal article, and web resources.

Background Information

For your literature review assignment, background information sources will help to focus your research. An overview or summary from a general source such as an encyclopedia, handbook, or textbook provides background overviews, definitions of important terms, key ideas, and key authors. These types of resources often include lists of related books and articles for further reading.  See, for example:

Note: See the Criminology Information Resources guide for further resources--there any many more!

Research methods

To find information related to research methods, the best place to start your search is Sage Research Methods Online, an online portal to research methodology in the social sciences. It includes over 600 online books, a Research Methods Map, and videos.

Journal articles

If you find references to articles on your topic through bibliographies or other resource lists, make note of the publication details (i.e. article title, author name, journal title, volume and issue #s, publication date, page numbers, etc.) and then try a"Journal Title" search in the catalogue to view the library's online and print holdings for this title. If you have a journal article citation, you could also try entering that information into SFU Library's Citation Finder.

If you are looking for information on a specific topic, there are online journal databases and indexes that you can search to find related articles. These resources can be accessed by subject area or by title from the SFU Library Databases page.

Where to get more research help!

This guide has been designed as a starting point for the research you will need to do to complete your course assignments. For further assistance, don't hesitate to Ask a Librarian.